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Archive for August, 2009

Bad Business ? or Just Bad Phone Manners?

August 27th, 2009 by Bob Bly

It?s a small point, I know, but it really irks me.

The other day, I called my doctor to cancel and reschedule an appointment.

?Can you call me back in 10 minutes?? the receptionist asked me.

What she should have said was: ?Can I call YOU back in 10 minutes??

I am the customer. She is the vendor. Her job is to serve me. Not the other way around.

By asking me to call her back, she was in effect taking the responsibility off her shoulders and putting it onto mine ? the exact OPPOSITE of what you should be doing for your clients.

I know I am a crabby old man, but there is a slacker attitude that pervades the American work force today, and what I have described is an all-too-common occurrence.

I won?t lose sleep over it, but I can?t help being irritated.

Does this receptionist need a refresher course in customer service?

Or should I, as my teenage boys frequently advise me, take a ?chill pill??


Category: General | 57 Comments »

Buy Me a Gift … Like Joe Vitale?

August 26th, 2009 by Bob Bly

I was shocked the other day when I responded to an offer from my friend Joe Vitale.

It took me to his web site and a free article he had posted there.

But what shocked me was the copy above it.

It said (and I am paraphrasing): ?If you like my free articles, why not reciprocate by buying Joe his favorite gift, a gift certificate to Amazon.?

I haven?t fully processed this (to me) unsettling and bizarre request, so I can?t tell you yet whether I think it makes sense or is distasteful to me or wildly inappropriate.

I can?t imagine that anyone reading my free blog or newsletter or articles would feel a desire to reciprocate by buying me something ? and I don?t think they should.

But what if I am wrong?

Occasionally I have received gifts from people I have helped with my advice.

One baked me a cake. Several sent me gift certificates for fancy restaurants.

While I obviously like to eat (you?ve seen my photo), I don?t want these things.

If you are irresistibly compelled to do something nice for me, there?s nothing I like more than getting an e-mail or post from a reader telling me that they enjoyed and were helped by something I wrote.

If you feel absolutely compelled to spend money thanking me, I would much rather you make a donation to the American Cancer Society (ACS) in whatever amount you wish.

My father, whom I adored, died of cancer at 70, so the work of the ACS is particularly meaningful to me.

And given that one in three Americans gets cancer, and my wife has it now, our donations help fund research that may save our lives (or the lives of our kids or grandkids) some day.



Category: General | 55 Comments »

The Latest Paradigm Shift in Marketing: Transparency

August 25th, 2009 by Bob Bly

An increasingly popular buzzword in online marketing today is ?transparency.?

It means the more you reveal about yourself to your prospects, the more they will bond with ? and hopefully buy from ? you.

Transparency is contrary to the classic copywriting rule stated so eloquently by my old direct mail mentor Sig Rosenblum decades ago:

?The reader isn?t interested in you. The reader is interested in her needs, fears, concerns, problems, and desires.?

Transparency represents a paradigm shift of the prospect’s attention from herself to you, the marketer.

Is transparency true? Do you really care which blend the CEO of Starbucks drinks ? or whether Joe Vitale is buying yet another expensive sports car?

I have trouble believing anyone cares much about what I do, like, or think. (Of course, I am more boring than Joe.)

But in case I am wrong, and transparency is what you crave, here are 15 things about me I probably haven?t told you before:

1?I am a grumpy old man ? over 50 ? who is increasingly alienated from our youth-oriented culture.

2?I am a luddite. I don?t own a Blackberry ? a PDA ? a Bluetooth … a wireless laptop ? an iPod ? an iPhone ? a Kindle … or even a cell phone. Nor do I have any need of or use for them.

3?If you held a gun to my head and said I had to send a text message over a cell phone, or a photo over the Internet, or you?d shoot me ? I?d be dead. I do not know how to do these things and have no interest in learning.

4?Although the Internet has eroded my attention span like it has everyone else?s, I am still an avid reader of books, both fiction and nonfiction.

5?While I read widely on a variety of topics, I have recently returned to science fiction, the preferred genre of my youth, and have put up a science fiction web site:

5?I buy and listen to music on CDs. I do not download from iTunes.

6?Although I read every day, my preferred mode of getting news is a newspaper ? a medium my teenage sons say is the most absurd thing they have ever seen.

7?I don?t watch much TV. I enjoy TV as a medium, but there?s not much on I like. I wish there were. My favorite show was Gordon Ramsey?s Kitchen Nightmares, and I hope it comes back.

8?My main hobby, aside from reading, is keeping tropical fish. I have a web site dedicated to this hobby: The latest addition to my aquarium is a freshwater stingray.

9?I also like nature, particularly lakes and rivers. We have a weekend home on a lake, and naturally I have a web site on that too:

10?In school, my original major was chemistry (later changed to chemical engineering), and my goal was to be a scientist.

11?I am not entrepreneurial by nature. The primary reason I became a freelancer in 1982 was that my company asked me to relocate and I did not want to go.

12?I am a homebody. I do not like to travel ? and with rare exception, I don?t.

13?I love writing. I agree with (I think it was) Noel Coward who said: ?Work is more fun than fun.? My two favorite activities are reading and writing.

14?I have two teenage boys, Alex and Stephen, and the most important thing in the world to me is being a good dad.

15?I got married at a young age, in my 20s, and was the only one of my friends to do so. Amy and I have been happily married for 26 years, and we will continue to be so for as long as I live or until she changes her mind.

So there?s my transparency in a nutshell.

Now I have to ask: Is this list as boring to you as it is to me?

Or are these things you really want to know ? and if so, for heaven?s sake why?


Category: Online Marketing | 79 Comments »

A New Metric for Measuring Twitter ROI

August 24th, 2009 by Bob Bly

I have created a crude metric for measuring whether Twitter is getting you results or just wasting your time.

I call this metric the Followed-to-Follow (FF) Ratio.

It is the ratio of how many people follow you on Twitter vs. how many people you follow.

Your FF Ratio should be at least 10:1, meaning you are followed by at least 10X more people than you follow yourself.

Ideally your FF ratio should be 100:1 or higher. A high FF Ratio means whenever you tweet, a significant number of Twitter users get your tweets, so your message is getting across.

On the other hand, an FF Ratio of 1:10 means for every person following you, you are following ten others.

That?s bad because it means you spend too much time getting and reading tweets, which may be fun but doesn?t get your message across or put money in your pocket.

An FF Ratio of 1:100 or lower means you have a serious social networking addiction and are probably paying too much attention to Twitter.

In addition, spending too much time on Twitter could be hazardous to your professional health: an article on (8/24/09) notes: ?Social media is becoming the latest way for people to get job offers rescinded, reprimanded at work, and even fired.?

What do you think of my FF Ratio? Is it a sensible metric? Or is the FF Ratio way off the mark?


Category: Online Marketing | 91 Comments »

The 12 Undeniable Truths of Freelance Writing

August 22nd, 2009 by Bob Bly

Here are 12 truths governing (as I see it) the state of the freelance writing profession today. Do you agree? Disagree? Are there any you would add to the list?

1?There is a lot of competition. When there it is a lot of competition in a market, it becomes a buyer?s market, which puts downward pressure on the prices you can charge.

2?A lot of your competitors are amateur writers who just want to get published ? and therefore will happily write for free what you want to get paid for.

3?The Internet has accelerated the decline of many types of freelance writing from a profession into a hobby.

4?The scarcer something is, the more you can charge for it. Therefore, you can make more money by writing about subjects that most other amateur and professional writers avoid.

5?Most writers gravitate toward topics they can write off the top of their heads or from quick online research (e.g., leadership); consequently, the pay scales are low.

6?If you choose a topic that is just a little bit technical or complicated or a little less well known (e.g., managing inventory in retail stores), the number of competitors decreases and your fees increase almost exponentially.

7?Clients will initially pay writers decent fees to provide writing in areas that are hot or trendy (e.g., blogging, social networking), but the pay scales quickly plummet when other writers discover the niche and jump into it.

8??Write what you know? is old advice but can give you a huge advantage as a writer ? providing you know something others will pay to read about.

9?Don?t study creative writing or marketing in college; study a subject you can specialize in and write about (e.g., economics, computer science).

10?Getting some real-world experience in the topic you want to write about can greatly enhance your marketability and increase your fees. For instance, if you want to write about precious metals, become an active investor in gold and silver.

11?Any time the client can make more money from what you write for them than they pay you to write it, you can charge high fees. This is why direct response copywriting is so lucrative.

12?Internet information buyers will pay little or no money for content from a writer, but lots of money for content from a recognized expert. So you should take steps to establish yourself as a guru in the subject you write about.


Category: General | 91 Comments »

Why I Never Give Unsolicited Advice

August 21st, 2009 by Bob Bly

TQ, a friend of many years, does not understand a rule I live by, which is: never give unsolicited advice.

Here are 5 reasons why I do not give unsolicited advice — and why I am not crazy about getting it, either:

1 — If other people really wanted your advice, they would ask for it.

2 — People don’t value advice unless they seek it out. And even then, they don’t really value advice all that much unless they PAY for it.

3 — The giver of unsolicited advice often makes the erroneous assumption that the receiver has goofed because of lack of knowledge.

What the giver does not realize is that the receiver either (a) does not agree with the giver’s opinion or (b) has made the error because of lack of time — or because fixing it is not a priority.

4–The giver of unsolicited advice may claim his motive is purely to be helpful, but the action is almost always driven in part by a conceited desire to show off (what he perceives as) his superior knowledge.

As such, it comes across as argumentative, arrogant, and annoying — not kind, friendly, and helpful.

5 — The advice giver erroneously assumes that the topic in question is a priority to the recipient.

In fact, it may not be a priority. Often, it is not even the least bit important.


Category: General | 98 Comments »

The $45 Question: What’s Your Online Marketing ROI?

August 20th, 2009 by Bob Bly

What’s the ROI for your favorite online marketing medium?

My favorite is e-mail marketing.

According to “Taking Names,” a special report from Direct magazine, in 2008 e-mail generated slightly more than $45 in revenues for every dollar spent on e-mail marketing.

I believe this number, because I know myself how to measure revenues from e-mail marketing precisely, so ROI can be tracked to the penny.

(My e-mail ROI is about $75 for every dollar spent on e-mail marketing.)

In addition to e-mail marketing, I also do other marketing activities.

We do a little PPC, and I can also track the revenues generated by Google Adwords precisely down to the penny.

I am also on Twitter and Facebook, but I do not know how to track revenues generated by either or even if they make me any money at all.

Perhaps there are analytics tools for social networking out there that I am just not aware of, and if you can point me toward them, you will have my thanks.

If you cannot track revenues generated by social networking, then I would argue that you cannot reliably and accurately calculate ROI, right?

That being the case, if you are one of the many raving social media fans trying to convince me of its incredible value — why?

Lord Kelvin, the British scientist, said: “If you can measure something in numbers, then you know something about it.”

Conversely, Kelvin’s statement implies that if you cannot measure something in numbers, than you do NOT know much about it.

I am pretty much in agreement with Kelvin. What about you?


Category: Online Marketing | 468 Comments »

Obama Never Asked Me, But….

August 19th, 2009 by Bob Bly

A poll today shows that 74% of Americans are confused about the Obama Administration’s health plan, and only one out of four feels well-informed about the health plan.

President Obama doesn’t read this blog and isn’t asking my advice. But if I were in the White House, here’s what I’d do immediately:

1–Distill a summary of the health plan down to 5 key points that can fit on two sides (preferably one side) of an 8 1/2 X 11-inch sheet of paper.

(Yes, I know that health care is complex. But just give the 5 most imporant points.)

2–Call a press conference and have the President explain these 5 points in a talk lasting no longer than 10 minutes, followed by 20 minutes of Q&A from the press.

3–During the press conference, announce a site — with a short, easy-to-remember URL — where people can go to download the 5-point abridged health care plan summary document.

4–Create a more detailed white paper of no more than 10 pages and have that available on the site as well.

Winston Churchill used to insist his staff write memos, even on complex subjects, restricted to one side of a sheet of paper.

If Obama can do this for health care, and perhaps you can do this to sell your products or ideas to your market, people would at last get the message and feel better educated — and therefore more comfortable accepting what you are proposing.

A lot of marketers, including me, use white papers of 10 pages or longer. Perhaps we need to start creating 5-point one page summaries to support our products, services, organizations, causes, and ideas, too.

For instance, if you are selling SEO services to an unsophisticated small business market that has heard about search engine marketing but doesn’t really get it, what about doing a one-sheet “5 Reasons Why You Should do SEO — NOW”?

What do you think? I am going to start implementing this idea soon. Will you give it a try?


Category: General | 48 Comments »